Dual tests for British PM as public prepare to give their verdicts at ballot box

The British public will this week be given its first chance to give their verdict on the Conservative government, with the latest opinion poll Sunday delivering bad news for Prime Minister Theresa May.

Local council elections on Thursday, seen traditionally as a litmus test for an incumbent administration, could see the Conservatives losing as many as 1,000 town hall seats, according to some studies.

But in a new poll Sunday for the Observer newspaper pollsters Opinium, results show that in a general election the public have given Jeremy Corbyn’s main opposition Labour Party a seven-point lead.

Opinium put Labour on 33 percent and May’s Conservatives on 26 percent, while the newly formed Brexit party headed by Nigel Farage in third place on 17 percent.

The Brexit party was only launched earlier this month by Farage, co-founder and former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), already attracting support from some big name politicians.

Farage, who serves as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), backed away from front line politics after 2016 referendum when Britain voted to leave the European Union. UKIP had been established specifically to campaign for Britain’s departure from the bloc.

Better news for Farage, but grim for May, is that the Opinium poll puts Labour and the Brexit Party neck-and-neck on 28 points when voters were asked how they would vote should elections for the European Parliament take place on May 23.

The Conservatives are on 14 points, and the minority Liberal Democrats on seven points alongside Change UK, the other new political party formed by a group of disenchanted MPs who resigned from the Labour and Conservative Parties.

The EU have insisted that Britain must take part in the European Parliament elections if no Brexit deal is reached with Brussels by early May.

The Opinium poll also found more than half the public (55 percent) now believe Britain should never have held the EU referendum as it has been so difficult to agree a deal.

Nearly half of voters polled by Opinium thought May should resign either once the Brexit withdrawal agreement has been passed or sooner, with only 14 percent believing she should continue as prime minister and lead the second phase of the Brexit negotiations before resigning.

Politician Brandon Lewis, chairman of the Conservative Party, said he understood the huge frustration of party members over Brexit. “I fully appreciate the huge frustration that particularly our members and councilors have that we haven’t left the EU yet and we might have to fight these elections at all”

He said in a Sunday morning television interview that the Conservatives are still hoping to avoid the European parliament elections by the British parliament approving a Brexit deal.

“I hope that between now and the European election polling day on May 23, if we have to have those elections, over the next few weeks I hope that Conservative members, colleagues, volunteers, activists will come to want to not just vote for, but campaign for Conservatives to get elected, because ultimately Conservative representation is better than any other party,” he said.

The big fear at Conservative headquarters is that many loyal supporters will punish the party by supporting Brexit Party candidates in EU elections.

A leaked email to Conservative activists, obtained by the Sunday Times newspaper, said: “All party members, including elected representatives at all levels, are expected to fully support the party in all elections.

Brussels has given Britain until Oct. 31 to strike a withdrawal deal, but so far May has failed to win support in the House of Commons for her plan. Talks between the two main parties, the Conservatives and Labour, have so far failed to reach any consensus on a potential plan to pave the way for Britain to leave the EU.